The Rains Road Trip took us to South Carolina where we are doing some interviews for an upcoming "Where Are They Now" story on a former St. Louis athlete.  We thought we'd check out a few football stadiums, and a minor league baseball park along the way. We ran into some fun surprises.

Charleston, South Carolina offers both a look back in history and a family beach vacation-- and driving from St. Louis you can stop off and see several SEC Stadiums. There's something for every member of the family.

From St. Louis  we took 64 East to 75 South to 26 South.  It is an easy drive with a nine hour drive to Knoxville, Tenn.-- home of the University of Tennessee-- the first night; and then the next day about an eight hour drive to Charleston.  Charleston is a beautiful city, with everything from historic buildings to great golf courses, tennis, and beaches.

As with any road trip, we usually try to find a minor league baseball game to go to. The Charleston RiverDogs, Class A affiliate for the Yankees play at “The Joe” the stadium (shown left) named for long-time Charleston mayor Joseph P. Riley. Mike Veeck, (if the name is familiar to St. Louis sports fans, he is the son of Bill Veeck) is one of the owners as is comedian Bill Murray. The two are good friends, live in the area, and are often seen at the ballpark.

Veeck, known for his creative promotions has instigated a few at The Joe. There is a lot more than just ballpark food at a RiverDogs game, including alligator dogs, fried Oreos—which were great—and funnel cakes. You can buy them at the concession stands or order from your seats, with waiters and waitresses out in the stands. There are a lot of activities for kids, including a bounce house.

We were lucky enough to have W. Thomas McQueeney, the author of two books about Charleston (The Rise of Charleston and Sunsets over Charleston) as our guide on a tour of Charleston. McQueeney was one of a school record six siblings to have graduated from The Citadel, the southern military college located in Charleston. He is shown right, giving a private tour of the historic district and Charleston Harbor.

McQueeney chaired the $44.5 million renovation of the Citadel’s Johnson Hagood Stadium and served six years on The Citadel's Board of Visitors so it was no surprise we got the inside tour of the famous school, including the President’s Office and its artwork and historical fixtures. The artwork included work commissioned by Charleston portrait artist Alicia Rhett, who fans of the movie, Gone With the Wind may know as India Wilkes the younger sister of Ashley.

St. Louis sports fans will remember former St. Louis football Cardinals and Arizona Cardinals running back Stump Mitchell who was a graduate of The Citadel. 

A tour of Charleston starts at the harbor where visitors can board a boat to go out to see Fort Sumter (shown right). Charleston Harbor was an important seaport during Colonial times.

The Civil War was started in the Charleston Harbor when Confederate Brig. Gen. P.G.T. Bearegard commanded an attack on the Union occupied Fort Sumter led by U. S. Maj. Robert Anderson. According to McQueeney, it was not a surprise attack. In fact, at 4 a.m the women of Charleston were decked out in their hoop skirts and hats, standing on the shore watching their husbands as they fired the first shots. An interesting note to sports fans is that the second in command under Anderson was Capt. Abner Doubleday and he was the one who actually fired the first shot to defend the fort.

Next on the tour was the Charleston Historic District, which has nearly 100 historic buildings, many on the National Historic Register. There is the Robert Barnwell Rhett House, First Baptist Church, College of Charleston, old houses like Drayton Hall, The Robert William Roper House, The Fireproof Building, and way too many buildings to mention, all with historic stories to tell. 

Rainbow Row (shown left) was one of our favorite places, with row houses built in the 1700's and painted in bright colors. McQueeney told us it was so when the sailors pulled in to Charleston Harbor they would be greeted by the bright colors. He also said there is a restriction that all owners of these particular houses must keep the houses in their original color to preserve the rainbow effect.

One big plantation visitors can see is the Magnolia Plantation and there is a large Tea Plantation. Several important architects helped shape the landscape of Charleston including those who designed the White House, U.S. Capitol and the Washington Monument.  

Charleston is nicknamed the Holy City due to all the churches and the religious freedom that was afforded early settlers to the area. The city is filled with beautiful old churches and synagogues. Shown right is St. Philip's Church.  There are also many cute areas with restaurants and shops and a Charleston City Market where crafters are making Sweetgrass Baskets, and others are selling their wares. The sweetgrass baskets are an old tradition handed down from mother to daughter or grandmother to granddaughter for hundreds of years.

Besides the old, historic areas and buildings there is a newer aquarium and the city continues to move forward. The beaches offer visitors a completely different side of Charleston. Cross the bridge to Folly Beach or the other beaches in the area and you might think you are in Florida or some other family beach area. Folly Beach on James Island has little shops with beachy items such as tee shirts, beach towels, and floaties, and there are many casual restaurants with outdoor seating and live music on the weekend. 

The photo to the left shows Folly beach on a Saturday afternoon and we were surprised at the lack of people on the beach at that time. There were a lot of cars leaving though so it looked like a very popular place for families.. At the point we were there were no businesses on the beach, just residential buildings. The beach was pristine, there were shells, but the sand seemed to be packed tighter than in many parts of Florida. The Charleston beaches would be a great vacation spot.

Other beaches in the area include Kiawah, Isle of Palms, Seabrook Island and Sullivan’s Island.

All this in Charleston and only two hours away is the SEC college town of Columbia, South Carolina, home of the University of South Carolina. 

Next our travels took us to Clemson, SC and then while driving on highway 123 in Greenville, SC we suddenly saw the sign for "Shoeless Joe Jackson Highway." We were in Shoeless Joe's hometown and didn't even know it. Thanks to "Google" we found out about the Shoeless Joe Jackson home and museum and went in search of it. In 2006, Jackson's home had been disassembled and moved to it's current location on Field Street and later opened as a museum, with tours of the home. The small home (shown right) is maintained by a foundation and was quaint and flowers planted all around. 

Right across the street from Shoeless Joe's home is Fluor Field, (shown left) the home of the Greenville Drive, They are a Class A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox and a member of the South Atlantic League-- the same league as the Charleston RiverDogs.

Modeled after Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox; Fluor Field has its own “Green Monster,” a 30-foot high wall in left field, equipped with a manual scoreboard. The dimensions all around the outfield wall are to the same specifications as Fenway Park (except the Green Monster which is 37 feet high at Fenway), including “Pesky’s Pole” in right field. If you decide to stay in Greenville, there is a Drury Inn.

As long as you are open to exploring new things and taking detours, you never know what you will find. 

On the way to South Carolina we had stopped at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, University of Kentucky at Lexington, and USC. The drive home can be altered to  take you through Athens, GA for the University of Georgia.

We took a lunch stop in Nashville, TN to see Vanderbilt's stadium and drive down Music Row. It's always fun to go to Nashville, but we'll have more about that in our next "Road Trip."

Below are pictures from the football fields we saw on the trip along with the 2014 schedule for Mizzou. Be sure to follow @RobRains on Twitter for more travel stories and complete coverage of the Missouri Tigers.

A few SEC Schools on the way to Charleston

With the SEC still being new for Missouri Tigers fans, we thought we'd stop at the schools and take a look at the stadiums. Below is the 2014 Tiger Football Schedule with the photos of the stadiums along the route to and from Charleston. The Tigers will be visiting two of those stadiums this year:  University of South Carolina in Columbia, SC and the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.

Mizzou 2014 SCHEDULE

08/30/14 v s. South Dakota St. TV Columbia, Mo. 2:30 p.m. CT
09/06/14 at Toledo TV Toledo, Ohio 11:00 a.m. CT (Nearest Drury Inn, Finlay HO- 45 min)
09/13/14 vs. Central Florida TV Columbia, Mo. 11:00 a.m. CT
09/20/14 vs. Indiana TV Columbia, Mo. TBA

University of South Carolina- Columbia, SC

Williams-Brice Stadium, formerly Carolina Stadium, was first constructed in 1934 by the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Then it seated 17,600. It has undergone a number of expansions and revisions over the years and bequest from the estate of Mrs. Martha Williams Brice, whose husband Thomas H. Brice was a Gamecock football letterman from 1922-24. It currently has aseating capacity of 80,250.

09/27/14  at South Carolina * TV Columbia, S.C. TBA

(If going to that game, make reservations at the Drury Inn and Suites: 8105 Two Notch Rd, Columbia, SC 29223  (803) 736-5600)

10/04/14 Open Date ALL DAY

University of Georgia, Athens, GA

Sanford Stadium has a seating capacity of 92,746, the fifth largest on-campus stadium in the country. It was bamed for the late Dr. S. V. Sanford, former president of the University and Chancellor of the University system. Sanford Stadium celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2004.

10/11/14 vs. Georgia * TV Columbia, Mo. TBA (In Columbia. Click here to make reservations at Drury Inn)

10/18/14  at Florida * TV Gainesville, Fla. TBA

Vanderbilt, Nashville, TN

Vanderbilt Stadium, an intimate 40,550-seat facility located in the heart of campus. The Commodores began playing home games at the current location in 1922. Dudley Field, as it was named, was the first stadium in the South to be erected exclusively for college football. After a $10.1 million construction project in 1981, Vanderbilt Stadium, was dedicated in September as Vanderbilt posted a comeback victory, beating Maryland, 23-1

10/25/14  vs. Vanderbilt * TV Columbia, Mo. TBA  (Mizzou plays Vanderbilt in Columbia. Click here for Drury Hotel in Columbia, MO)

University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY

The total number of seats at Commonwealth Stadium is 67,606.

11/01/14 vs. Kentucky * TV Columbia, Mo. TBA (Note: Tigers play KY in Columbia, Click here for Drury Inn in Columbia)
11/08/14 Open Date ALL DAY
11/15/14 at Texas A&M * TV College Station, Texas TBA

University of Tennessee, Knoxville TN

One of college football's most iconic landmarks, Neyland Stadium is the fourth-largest stadium in the nation with a capacity of 102,455.

11/22/14  at Tennessee * TV Knoxville, TN TBA
11/28/14 vs. Arkansas * TV Columbia, Mo. 1:30 p.m. CT


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